Headscarf ban shows France is actually ‘culturally
To the Daily:
I for one support the actions of the French government, and I
respect its right to protect its culture as it interprets it. I
couldn’t help but disagree when Shabina Khatri wrote in
Friday’s column (Forget freedom fries, let’s talk
scarfheads, 03/05/04) that France had “lost its
way” with its ban on the wearing of certain religious symbols
in public schools, which include the Muslim headscarf.
France has had a long and proud history of state protection for
the most important components of its culture, such as the French
language, French films and the country’s distinctive cuisine.
The legal and social elements of French culture and tradition (such
as the institution of official state secularism) are no less
sacred. If the French government interprets this to mean that
“conspicuous” religious symbols are inappropriate in
public schools, it is fully within its rights to legislate it. In
fact, France is as justified in requiring “respect” for
its culture as any other state.
In many states and regions around the world, tolerance and
respect for the norms of the nation are codified in law and
applicable to people of all cultures and religions who choose to
reside there. For instance, Saudi Arabia requires that all
residents obey its particular interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.
Similar codes of law exist in other places, such as Iran, tribally
controlled Afghanistan and Pakistan and northern Nigeria. The U.S.
armed services, for years, encouraged female service members
serving in Saudi Arabia to show “toleration and
respect” for local culture when off base by wearing the
head-to-foot abaya covering, refraining from driving automobiles
and entering buses and buildings from back entrances. Saudi culture
and religion is so important that the state has its own police
force dedicated to the preservation of these norms — the
Mutawa — who have been known to enforce the law by beating
with sticks those who fail to properly show tolerance or respect
for Saudi cultural law. Islamic religious scholars and the U.S.
government never fail to point out the safety benefits for women of
covering up and obeying Islamic laws. By contrast, France has no
similar system of aggressive enforcement, despite probably similar
feelings of national cultural passion.
When Khatri states that “the headscarf controversy has
become an ugly, politicized and heartbreaking display of bigotry
and intolerance,” I can’t help but think of a few
instances where I agree. Her message rings true in other ways as
well. It is time we “stop criticizing third-world countries
for their “backwards” ways” and start showing
respect for the culture and norms of all states and peoples —
Eastern and Western. France has shown that first-world, freedom-
and liberty-loving states too, can be on the leading edge of this
kind of culturally progressive legislating.
If those pupils who wear headscarves are indeed a tiny minority
in France, perhaps the actual effect of the new rule on the Muslim
population will be small, rendering it only a “symbolic
snub” — but a culturally important one nonetheless.
All I can say is: What goes around, comes around.
‘U’ spokeswoman did not intend to make
To the Daily:
In my interview with the Daily regarding the anonymous flyers
posted in Angell Hall (DPS investigates campus flyers as
harassment case, 03/05/04), I said clearly that we do not know
the truth of the allegations in the flyer. I was very careful not
to lend credence to the accusations.
Separately, in response to additional questions from the
reporter, I shared information about the University’s
policies regarding faculty-student relationships and sexual
harassment. Unfortunately, the juxtaposition of those remarks in
the same sentence as a discussion of the flyer makes it sound as if
I have accused a faculty member of improper behavior. I have no
reason to do so, and I never intended to leave this impression.
Bush’s campaign ads exploit events of Sept. 11
To the Daily:
I would just like to commend the staff at the Daily for its
editorial (Tragic offenses: New series of Bush advertisements
are insensitive, 04/05/04). It is certainly a grave injustice
to see our president try to bolster the support of this country by
exploiting the horrors of the Sept. 11 attacks. It’s also
important to note the hypocrisy of his actions. As reported by The
Associated Press on Jan. 23, 2002, President Bush said, “I
have no ambition whatsoever to use (Sept. 11) as a political
issue.” As a country, I think we need to hold Bush
accountable for such unacceptable conduct.
Editorial based on the wrong argument
To the Daily:
I am responding to the Daily’s stance on the gun
makers’ protection bill that failed in the U.S. Senate
(Tort reform: DOA: Protection of gun makers from lawsuits a bad
idea, 03/04/04). The bill would have protected U.S. gun makers
from frivolous law suits brought by a concerted effort of anti-gun
interests in this country. It did not prevent legitimate suits
addressing liability as the Daily suggested.
The reason it was killed was because amendments were attached by
anti-gun interests that had far more reaching effects than the
feel-good, reasonable-sounding explanations they give for these
laws: 1) The gun show loophole is not a loophole. All transactions
are governed under all laws pertaining to all of our citizenry; 2)
The assault weapons ban is another disguised law. It is an almost
comical attempt to define certain aspects of certain guns as making
them more lethal. It should be allowed to sunset in September.
But further, and more sinister, is an idea that rears its ugly
head in the last paragraph. The Daily sets the stage for the issue
to be a Republican versus Democrat issue. This is an attack on
individual rights — inalienable rights. Not a political party
issue. If the right of speech or freedom of press were being
attacked, I wonder what the Daily’s editorial would say. This
is a house of cards, this Constitution that governs us. The Daily
should be ashamed.